The Meaning of Ara Ara: What It Is and How To Use It

This guide will give you all the information you need on the phrase ara ara – how it’s used, its origin, use in popular culture, and more

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What does the phrase ara ara mean?

Linguaholic states that there are three different words in the Japanese language that are all pronounced ara ara. In its non-exclamatory form, the Japanese word ara ara approximately translates to the English word, “roughly.” With a brief grammatical add-on, shii, ara ara shii means wild, rough, or violent. With a different grammatical add on, shisa, ara ara shisa is the equivalent of adding the English suffix “-ness” to a word, creating the words roughness, or harshness.

However, when presented in context, ara ara’s homonym as an interjection expresses surprise, usually from an older female toward a younger male. This is the most common use of the phrase ara ara when it is spoken in English.

According to Discover Diary, the Japanese exclamation does not have a direct translation to English, since many Japanese expressions connote different emotional nuances to English. Overall, ara ara is used to express mild surprise, and is an exclamation similar to, “oh dear,” “my my,” “oh me oh my,” or simply, “oh my!” in English.

The phrase ara ara is typically said by women as an interjection to express surprise. However, users should be careful when using ara ara, as it can come with mature connotations that are not always appropriate. Typically, ara ara is used by a female character in anime or manga as a flirty or teasing exclamation to express her sexual intentions toward a younger man.

While in some cases the use of the phrase ara ara can be completely innocent, showing subtle surprise, other smore familiar with its typical use in anime and manga may take use of the phrase to be overtly sexual and perhaps inappropriate. The phrase ara ara has become synonymous with flirty, often inappropriate memes in the English-speaking world, with these implications stemming from more mature Japanese media.

Users should take caution when saying the phrase ara ara around company, as others may take offense to it if they are only aware of its common mature usage in anime and manga.

How did ara ara become popular?

Ara ara became popularized as an English phrase through its common use in both anime and manga. According to Merriam-Webster, anime is a style of animation out of Japan, which often has colorful graphics and action-heavy stories, often venturing into fantasy and science fiction categories.

Manga are Japanese comic books and graphic novels. While these do not always have the same colorful depictions as their animated counterparts, the art style and storylines are often similar, with some manga being based on anime and vice versa.

Anime and manga became popularized outside Japan gradually since the mid-1900s, though many did not identify cartoons like Speed Racer and Astro Boy as Japanese. According to The State Press, the West began to identify Japanese animation as something different in the 1990s, when the Pokémon boom hit the United States. As children fell in love with Pokémon, teens and adults discovered their own more adult anime. They also began reading manga alongside watching anime with subtitles, immersing themselves in Japanese culture.

These anime fans began identifying as “otaku,” which can refer to someone who is obsessed with Japanese media, including anime and manga. From the Japanese slang, it can be translated to words like “geek” or “nerd,” in English. While it is considered rude to be referred to as “otaku” in Japan, Western anime and manga fans are proud to identify as “otaku,” but may take offense at being called a “weeaboo.” “Weeaboo” is a more derogatory term for someone who is obsessed with Japanese media and culture. The insular community and often ostracization of anime and manga fans has only solidified the community, encouraging pride within the fandom.

Now, many popular streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have entire sections of anime for viewers to watch. Some streaming services have even emerged as exclusively anime and manga cources, like Crunchyroll, which has grown incredibly popular. This popularization of anime and manga in the west have brought common Japanese phrases like ara ara into the English vernacular.

Where can ara ara be seen in popular culture?

Ara ara is most commonly seen in anime and manga. In the light novel and anime series Date A Live, villain character Kurumi Tokisaki uses ara ara frequently. Another character that uses ara ara as a catchphrase is character Alicia Florence in the anime series Aria. This phrase is also frequently used by clumsy character Mutsumi Otohime in the anime series Love Hina. Of course, numerous other characters in different anime and manga series use ara ara every once in a while, but these characters are known for using the phrase frequently.

Ara ara is commonly associated with “shotacon,” in anime. According to Definitions.net, This phrase refers to the Shotaro complex, which describes the inappropriate fetishization of young boys. This phrase stems from the manga Tetsujin 28-go, which features a young boy character named Shotaro. Shotacon can range from flirty and suggestive to romantic to overtly sexual and pornographic. The taboo association ara ara has with shotacon and older women being attracted to younger male characters in anime and manga contributes to the caution one should exercise with use of the phrase ara ara.  

What are synonyms for ara ara?

While the exclamation ara ara does not have a direct translation in English, it is commonly known to mean, “oh, my,” or “my, my.” According to Power Thesaurus, synonyms for oh my include the following, defined by Merriam-Webster and Dictionary:

·      Wow – An interjection used to express strong pleasure or surprise.

·      My goodness – An informal interjection used to show surprise.

·      Blimey – An informal British interjection used to show surprise or excitement.

·      Whoa – Used to express a strong reaction, such as astonishment.

·      Good heavens – An informal idiom used to show surprise.

·      Gosh – A mild interjection used to express surprise.

Overall, the Japanese phrase ara ara means “oh my” or “my my” in English. However, people should be careful when using the phrase with others as it usually has mature connotations in the English vernacular, stemming from its use in anime and manga. 

Sources:

  1. https://www.merriam-webster.com/
  2. https://www.dictionary.com/
  3. https://discoverdiary.com/what-does-ara-ara-mean-in-anime-manga/
  4. https://linguaholic.com/linguablog/meaning-of-ara-ara/
  5. https://www.statepress.com/article/2020/10/specho-americas-nuanced-and-evolving-relationship-with-anime